BRATTLEBORO — “People, Places and the History of Words in Brattleboro, Vermont” will debut its unique Mobile Interactive Literary Exhibition Space traveling museum created by and for the Words Project with “Lucy Speaks,” remembering early Brattleboro-area resident, Lucy Terry Prince, the first known African American poet, former slave, and eloquent advocate for equal treatment under the law.
MILES will be on display in front of Key Bank at 135 Main St. from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, a new part of the 16th-annual Brattleboro Literary Festival.
Brattleboro-based storyteller and writer Shanta Lee will perform Lucy Terry’s only extant poem “Bars Fight” on the hour on Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. and on Sunday at noon and 1 p.m. and engage audiences in a dialogue on Lucy. Students from Marlboro College will also present a spoken word and movement performance based on Lucy’s life and times on Sunday afternoon.
Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, scholar and author of “Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend,” inspired much of the exhibit and will be a featured speaker at the festival from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. on Saturday at the Centre Congregational Church. She will be reading with Wendy Warren, author of “New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
“Lucy Speaks” invites visitors to walk or wheel inside the fully ADA accessible space and experience Lucy’s stirring words and her times.
The Words Project received a multi-year, $150,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help produce podcasts and maps for words-themed bicycling, walking and driving tours, as well as a heritage book chronicling the four-year Words Project’s findings, among other things.
Lucy Speaks and Brattleboro’s Letterpress Years, an exhibition curated by Stephanie Green at Brooks Memorial Library, also opening this weekend, herald three-and-a-half years of public activities that will engage community members and classrooms in place-based “research pods” that will investigate, share and celebrate the Brattleboro area’s rich literary history from the Abenaki up to today.
A large map of Windham County, provided by the Windham Regional Commission, at a Words Project information table next to MILES will encourage passersby to pin places they think may be interesting to research for the audio tours.
The Project aims to gather as much feedback from the community as possible to foster a connection between people and places in the area. The whole process will showcase the uniqueness of Brattleboro, help attract more visitors and enhance a sense of shared belonging and pride for all who live here.
The “Lucy Speaks” MILES exhibit was conceived by the Brattleboro Literary Festival and Downtown Brattleboro Alliance’s Jen Austin, who won a $2,500 National Main Street grant from Edward Jones to create the exhibit. Ana Saaveda organized the local Edward Jones offices to contribute. The Sunrise Rotary Club also supported MILES’s later use on Flat Street. Marlboro College Art Professor Amy Beecher curated and designed the exhibit with Curatorial team Jerry Carbone, Sandy Rouse, Lissa Weinmann and Sarah Kovach.
“Lucy’s story and the whole Words Project have inspired Marlboro College students to become more actively engaged in Brattleboro as an incredibly rich learning environment,” said Beecher.
The Downtown Brattleboro Alliance will host the project’s audio tours and provide a platform for the community’s research pod findings and other Words Project information and news on its website www.brattleboro.com. The Project has also launched a Facebook page, “Brattleboro Places and Words.”
In the years ahead, the Words Project’s classroom and community pod research will be shared via podcasts, maps and plaques for walking, biking, and driving tours, a book on the printing and publishing history of Brattleboro, special pages on the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance’s website at Brattleboro.com, an exhibition of handmade books and publishing and printing artifacts at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, community picnics, lectures and other public events which will grow around the Brattleboro Literary Festival and other annual happenings.
To participate in a place-based research pod, or to join the Words Project monthly meetings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.